Industry and government need to attract more drivers into the road haulage sector to tackle a decade-long decline that has led to a potential shortfall of 60,000 skilled drivers, MPs have said.
In a new report, the Transport Select Committee has warned that the current approach will not deliver new drivers fast enough to address the existing shortage, or deal with future growth and the number of drivers likely to retire in the next 10 years.
Haulage associations estimate a current shortfall of 45,000–60,000 drivers with another 40,000 due to leave the industry by 2017.
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) told MPs a 2015 survey of its members had revealed 65% had lost business due to the drivers shortage.
Transport minister Andrew Jones commented in parliament that the shortage was manifesting itself in pressures on costs, delays to some deliveries and a dependence on foreign drivers.
Committee chair Louise Ellman, said: ‘The road haulage sector has been short of skilled drivers for the last 10 years. The familiar profile of the professional driver – over 45, white and male – will need to adapt. Industry and government need to get their heads together and come up with a plan which focusses on recruitment and retention.
‘After years of under-investment in the sector, let's encourage skilled drivers back into their cabs by improving the image of the profession, revisiting pay and conditions and providing proper and secure facilities at depots and on the roadside.’
She added: ‘Government and industry should review apprenticeships, reduce training costs and insurance, and demonstrate clear career progression.’
MPs said a combination of factors ‘is conspiring to keep drivers off the road', including the cost of acquiring a licence, a lack of investment in drivers' training, poor working terms and inadequate roadside facilities.
However, the committee heard that thousands of licensed Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) drivers choose not to drive professionally.
MPs suggested that the industry ‘could look to under-represented groups for new recruits’, including women and people from a black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.
Sally Gilson, the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) skills policy development manager said: ‘We are pleased to see that the transport committee has listened to FTA’s concerns – as this is a problem that isn’t going to solve itself.
The FTA said it strongly supported the committee’s call for the Government to provide ‘clear, accessible guidance on skills, funding and support, employer standards, regulation and insurance for young drivers.’
It added that it ‘has been calling on the Government’ to provide a suitable loan system to cover the cost of training.
Daniel Parker-Klein, head of policy at the CILT, said: ‘We fully support the report, which we are pleased to see supports and cites our proposals. The impact of the driver shortage cannot be ignored and it is of utmost importance that the report’s findings help influence industry and government to focus on recruitment and retention.'